 Research article
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Average and extreme multiatom Van der Waals interactions: Strong coupling of multiatom Van der Waals interactions with covalent bonding
Chemistry Central Journal volume 1, Article number: 21 (2007)
Abstract
Background
The prediction of ligand binding or protein structure requires very accurate force field potentials – even small errors in force field potentials can make a 'wrong' structure (from the billions possible) more stable than the single, 'correct' one. However, despite huge efforts to optimize them, currentlyused allatom force fields are still not able, in a vast majority of cases, even to keep a protein molecule in its native conformation in the course of molecular dynamics simulations or to bring an approximate, homologybased model of protein structure closer to its native conformation.
Results
A strict analysis shows that a specific coupling of multiatom Van der Waals interactions with covalent bonding can, in extreme cases, increase (or decrease) the interaction energy by about 20–40% at certain angles between the direction of interaction and the covalent bond. It is also shown that on average multibody effects decrease the total Van der Waals energy in proportion to the square root of the electronic component of dielectric permittivity corresponding to dipoledipole interactions at small distances, where Van der Waals interactions take place.
Conclusion
The study shows that currentlyignored multiatom Van der Waals interactions can, in certain instances, lead to significant energy effects, comparable to those caused by the replacement of atoms (for instance, C by N) in conventional pairwise Van der Waals interactions.
Background
Van der Waals (VdW) forces, which are very important for the structure and interactions of biological molecules, are usually treated as a simple sum of pairwise interatomic interactions even in dense systems like proteins [1–5]. However, multiatom VdW interactions are usually ignored. This seems to follow the AxilrodTeller theory [6] which predicts a drastic (stronger than for pairwise interactions) decrease of threeatom interactions with distance; and indeed, detailed computations of singleatom liquids [7] and solids [8, 9] show that MB (multibody) effects amount to only ~5% of the total energy. However, this work shows that multiatom VdW interactions can become quite large in the presence of covalent bonds. This finding, which equally concerns atomic interactions in biological molecules and solvents, implies a necessity to revise the allatom force fields currently used.
Results and Discussion
Theory
Following earlier studies [6, 7, 10–12], each atom i(i = 1, 2, ..., n) is considered as a threedimensional (3D) harmonic quantum oscillator, where an electron with mass m_{ i }oscillates harmonically with a frequency ω_{ i }, if unaffected by other atoms. Atom i is fixed in the 3D point r_{ i }; it has an instantaneous dipole moment ex_{ i }, where e is the elementary charge and x_{ i }the 3D vector of instantaneous displacement (whose equilibrium value is zero). Thus, a classic Hamiltonian for the system of coupled oscillators is
here θ_{ ij }/r_{ ij }^{3} = (δ  3n_{ ij }⊗ n_{ ij })/r_{ ij }^{3} is the usual dipoledipole interaction tensor (where δ is the 3D unit matrix, n_{ ij }⊗ n_{ ij }the tensor product of vectors n_{ ij }= r_{ ij }/r_{ ij }, and r_{ ij }= r_{ i } r_{ j }; i ≠ j). As is usually done (see Refs. [6, 10–12]), relatively week quadrupledipole and so on interactions of oscillators are ignored in addition to possible inharmoniousness of the oscillators.
Energy of multibody VdW interactions
Using the substitution {\text{y}}_{i}={\text{x}}_{i}\sqrt{{m}_{i}}[12], a conventional quantum mechanical Hamiltonian operator for coupled oscillators is obtained from [1]:
here \hslash is the reduced Planck constant. By the introduction of a 3ndimensional vector Y = [y_{1}, ..., y_{ n }] composed of n 3D vectors y_{ i }, and a 3n × 3n matrix B = b_{ ij } composed of n × n 3D blocks {b}_{ij}[{b}_{ij}={\omega}_{i}^{2}\delta \text{if}i=j,{b}_{ij}=({e}^{2}/\sqrt{{m}_{i}{m}_{j}})({\theta}_{ij}/{\text{r}}_{ij}{}^{3})\text{if}i\ne j], we obtain a simple Hamiltonian
for oscillation in a 3n dimensional potential well determined by the 3n × 3n matrix B. The 3n eigenvalues (Ω_{1})^{2}, ..., (Ω_{3n})^{2} of matrix B are squared frequencies of 3n independent onedimensional oscillations along its eigenvectors. If dipoledipole interactions are absent (i.e., all θ_{ ij }≡ 0, where 0 is the zero 3D matrix), Ω_{1} = Ω_{2} = Ω_{3} = ω_{1}, ..., Ω_{3n2 }= Ω_{3n1 }= Ω_{3n}= Ω_{ n }. If dipoledipole interactions are small, Ω_{1} > 0, ..., Ω_{3n}> 0 are eigenvalues of the positively determined matrix B^{1/2} (while in the case of too large dipoledipole interactions the system becomes unstable, and at least one Ω^{2} becomes negative). The frequencies Ω > 0 of the stable system of oscillators determine the ground state energy of this system [12]: the system's energy is W={\displaystyle \sum _{s=1}^{3n}\frac{\hslash}{2}{\Omega}_{s}}=\frac{\hslash}{2}\text{Sp}\left[{B}^{1/2}\right] in the presence of dipoledipole interactions, while the energy of the same but noninteracting oscillators is {W}_{\text{0}}=\frac{\hslash}{2}{\displaystyle \sum _{i=1}^{n}3{\omega}_{i}}. Thus, the energy of VdW dispersion forces is
In general, one can compute all 3n eigenvalues (Ω_{ i })^{2} of 3n × 3n matrix B(and thus eigenvalues Ω_{ i }of B^{1/2} and their sum Sp [B^{1/2}]) in a time proportional to (3n)^{3}. Computationally, this solves a problem of exact calculation of VdW dispersion forces for any system of polarizable dipoles.
However, to get a physical understanding of the main terms contributing to these forces, one has to consider the main terms of Sp[B^{1/2}].
Matrix B can be presented as
where matrix B_{0} corresponds to uncoupled oscillators and ΔB to weak coupling of the oscillators. Now let us consider an auxiliary matrix B λ = B_{0} + λΔB (where λ is a small multiplier), and present its square root, {B}_{\lambda}^{1/2}, as a series {B}_{\lambda}^{1/2}={B}_{0}^{1/2}+\lambda {Z}_{1}+{\lambda}^{2}{Z}_{2}+\mathrm{...}, where {B}_{0}^{1/2} is a diagonal matrix with 3D blocks ({B}_{0}^{1/2})_{ ij }= ω_{ i }δ if i = j, and ({B}_{0}^{1/2})_{ ij }= 0 if i≠j, and matrices Z_{1}, Z_{2},... have to be calculated.
Since {B}_{\lambda}^{1/2}{B}_{\lambda}^{1/2}={B}_{0}+\lambda [{B}_{0}^{1/2}{Z}_{1}+{Z}_{1}{B}_{0}^{1/2}]+{\lambda}^{2}[{B}_{0}^{1/2}{Z}_{2}+{Z}_{1}{Z}_{1}+{Z}_{\text{2}}{B}_{0}^{1/2}]+\mathrm{...} and {B}_{\lambda}^{1/2}{B}_{\lambda}^{1/2}={B}_{0}+\lambda \Delta B,
This system can be solved recursively: equation MZ + ZM = Y (where matrices consist of equalsize blocks (M)_{ ij }, (Z)_{ ij }, (Y)_{ ij }, i, j = 1, ..., n) unambiguously determines Z for any Y when M = ω_{ i }δ_{ ij }δ is a positively determined diagonal matrix: {(MZ+ZM)}_{ij}={\displaystyle \sum _{p}\left[{\omega}_{i}{\delta}_{ip}\delta \cdot {(Z)}_{pj}+{(Z)}_{ip}\cdot {\omega}_{p}{\delta}_{pj}\delta \right]}=\text{[}{\omega}_{i}+{\omega}_{j}]{(Z)}_{ij}, and from [ω_{ i }+ ω_{ j }](Z)_{ ij }= (Y)_{ ij }= (Y)_{ ij }we have (Z)_{ ij }= (Y)_{ ij }/(ω_{ i }+ ω_{ j }).
Denoting 1/(ω_{ i }+ ω_{ j }) as μ_{ ij }and {b}_{ij}/\text{(}{\omega}_{i}+{\omega}_{j})=\left\{{e}^{2}/[\sqrt{{m}_{i}{m}_{j}}\text{(}{\omega}_{i}+{\omega}_{j})]\right\}\cdot \left({\theta}_{ij}/{\text{r}}_{ij}{}^{3}\right) as h_{ ij }, we have
Matrices Z_{1}, Z_{2}, Z_{3},... do not depend on λ. Series \lambda {Z}_{1}+{\lambda}^{2}{Z}_{2}+{\lambda}^{3}{Z}_{3}+\mathrm{...} converges at λ = 1, if the terms b_{ ij }of the matrix ΔB (and consequently h_{ ij }) are sufficiently small. Thus, the energy of dispersion forces
can be presented as a sum of pairwise, triple, quadruple, etc. interactions (the term \text{Sp[}{Z}_{1}]={\displaystyle \sum _{i}\text{Sp[}{h}_{ii}]} is equal to 0, since all diagonal blocks h_{ ii }≡ 0).
The term
is a sum of conventional London's energies ΔW_{ ik }[10–13] of pairwise interactions: since Sp[θ_{ ik }θ_{ ki }] = 6,
where
is a convenient dimensionless parameter for the interaction of oscillators i and k, and α_{ i }= e^{2}/(m_{ i }{\omega}_{i}^{2}) is the electronic polarizability of atom i.
The term
is the sum of the energies of triple interactions, ΔW_{ ikp }, which depends on the geometry of the triangles (Fig 1a) formed by the atoms involved [6, 8, 11, 13]. Because Sp[θ_{ ik }θ_{ kp }θ_{ pi }] = 3+9cosφ_{ k }·cosφ_{ p }·cosφ_{ i },
Thus, a triple interaction can be both repulsive and attractive: attractive, when atoms i, k, p stay nearly along a line; repulsive, when these atoms form an acute or rightangled triangle [6].
The quadruple interactions (contributing to the energy term \frac{\hslash}{2}Sp[Z_{4}] can consist of not only four different atoms, but also three or two. Four, three and twoatom interactions contain terms like Sp[h_{ ik }h_{ kp }h_{ pq }h_{ qi }], Sp[h_{ ik }h_{ ki }h_{ ip }h_{ pi }], Sp[h_{ ik }h_{ ki }h_{ ik }h_{ ki }], respectively (where different indices denote different particles). After simple but voluminous calculations it can be shown that
where {\Gamma}_{ikpq}=\frac{\hslash}{\text{16}}\left({\omega}_{i}+{\omega}_{k}+{\omega}_{p}+{\omega}_{q}+\frac{{\omega}_{k}{\omega}_{q}}{{\omega}_{i}+{\omega}_{p}}+\frac{{\omega}_{i}{\omega}_{p}}{{\omega}_{k}+{\omega}_{q}}\right)\cdot {\gamma}_{ik}{\gamma}_{kp}{\gamma}_{pq}{\gamma}_{qi}\cdot \left(\text{Sp[}{\theta}_{ik}{\theta}_{kp}{\theta}_{pq}{\theta}_{qi}\text{]}\right).
In twoatom quadruple terms Γ_{ ikik }, Sp[θ_{ ik }θ_{ ki }θ_{ ik }θ_{ ki }] = 18. In threeatom quadruple terms like Γ_{ ikip },
Sp[θ_{ ik }θ_{ ki }θ_{ ik }θ_{ pi }] = 9  9cos^{2}φ_{ i }
is always negative (Fig. 1b), i.e., neighbor k of atom i increases attraction of i to p, and neighbor p of i increases attraction of i to k. In fouratom quadruple terms Γ_{ ikpq }, the value of Sp[θ_{ ik }θ_{ kp }θ_{ kp }θ_{ qi }] varies from 18 to +9 depending on the mutual arrangement all four atoms.
Microscopic dielectric permittivity in a system of oscillators
Consider the system of oscillators described above, where dipole moments ex_{ a }, ex_{ b }of atoms a, b are now fixed. The potential energy of this system is
Here g_{ ab }= e^{2}θ_{ ab }/r_{ ab }^{3}, X^{(ab) }is a 3·(n2)dimensional vector composed of n2 3D vectors x_{ i }(i ≠ a, b), {G}_{a}^{(ab)}, {G}_{b}^{(ab)} are 3 × 3·(n2) matrices composed of n2 3D matrices g_{ ia }or g_{ ib }, respectively (i ≠ a, b), and the 3·(n2) × 3·(n2) matrix A^{(ab) }= a_{ ij } is composed of (n2) × (n2) 3D blocks a_{ ij }[i ≠ a, b, j ≠ a, b, a_{ ij }= m_{ i }{\omega}_{i}^{2}δ if i = j, a_{ ij }= g_{ ij }if i ≠ j]. The system's energy minimum is determined by equations \frac{d}{d{\text{X}}^{\text{(ab)}}}U=0, so that {\text{X}}^{\text{(}ab\text{)}}={[{A}^{\text{(}ab\text{)}}]}^{\text{1}}{G}_{a}^{(ab)}{\text{x}}_{a}{[{A}^{\text{(}ab\text{)}}]}^{\text{1}}{G}_{b}^{(ab)}{\text{x}}_{b}, and the energy at minimum is
The terms in {} are not interesting to us at this stage, they correspond to the interaction of separate fixed dipoles a and b with a polarizable environment. The term {\text{x}}_{a}{G}_{a}^{(ab)}{[{A}^{\text{(}ab\text{)}}]}^{\text{1}}{G}_{b}^{(ab)}{\text{x}}_{b} corresponds to the interaction of dipoles a and b via a polarizable environment; and the last term corresponds to the direct interaction of dipoles a and b. Thus, the polarizable mediummodified energy of electrostatic interaction of fixed dipoles a and b is
when the "medium" consists of oscillators described at a microscopic level.
On the other hand, we have a classic "macroscopic" equation for the mediummodified energy of interaction of the same two dipoles. The modification is described by permittivity, ε:
The value \frac{1}{\epsilon} is a scalar in a uniform macroscopic medium; but {\left[\frac{1}{\epsilon}\right]}_{ab}=\delta {G}_{a}^{(ab)}{[{A}^{\text{(}ab\text{)}}]}^{\text{1}}{G}_{b}^{(ab)}{g}_{ab}^{1} is a 3 × 3 tensor that depends on the 3D positions of dipoles a and b when in a nonuniform "microscopic" medium. This can be seen from comparison of Equations [18] and [19], which describe the same energy U^{(1)}_{amediumb}= U^{(ε)}_{ ab }in "micro" and "macroscopic" terms. However, the effective value of mediuminduced modification of dipoledipole interaction strength can still be defined by the equation
Defined thus, the scalar ε_{ ab }coincides with the conventional permittivity in a uniform macroscopic medium. When the "medium" consists of oscillators described at a microscopic level, ε_{ ab }corresponds to the dielectric permittivity for the interaction of dipoles a and b via the polarizable environment.
From equations [18] – [20], {\epsilon}_{ab}^{2}=\text{Sp}\left[\left({g}_{ab}{G}_{a}^{(ab)}{[{A}^{\text{(}ab\text{)}}]}^{\text{1}}{G}_{b}^{(ab)}\right)\left({g}_{ba}{G}_{b}^{(ab)}{[{A}^{\text{(}ab\text{)}}]}^{\text{1}}{G}_{a}^{(ab)}\right)\right]/\text{Sp}\left[{g}_{ab}{g}_{ba}\right]. To estimate this value with accuracy up to triple interactions (i.e. up to the third powers of small g matrices), it remains only to find the main (gindependent) term of [A^{(ab)}]^{1}, since products like {G}_{a}^{(ab)}{G}_{b}^{(ab)} already contain second powers of g. From expansion similar to that presented in equation [5], one obtains
If the sum is taken over the oscillating electrons only (while the nuclei positions are fixed), ε_{ ab }is an electronic component of dielectric permittivity.
Multiatom VdW interactions are important in the presence of covalent bonds
Equations [10] – [14] show that energies of pairwise, triple and quadruple interactions are proportional to ~\hslashω·γ_{ ik }γ_{ ki }, ~\hslashω·γ_{ ik }γ_{ kp }γ_{ pi }and ~\hslashω·γ_{ ik }γ_{ kp }γ_{ pq }γ_{ qi }, respectively, where \hslashω is an oscillator excitation energy. The γ values are small for nonbonded contacts. Indeed, \frac{\sqrt{{\omega}_{i}{\omega}_{k}}}{{\omega}_{i}+{\omega}_{k}}in{\gamma}_{ik}=\frac{\sqrt{{\omega}_{i}{\omega}_{k}}}{{\omega}_{i}+{\omega}_{k}}\cdot \left(\frac{\sqrt{{\alpha}_{i}{\alpha}_{k}}}{{\text{r}}_{ik}{}^{3}}\right) is normally close to 1/2, because ω_{ i }and ω_{ k }are of equal order of magnitude [13], and the α values are about 1 Å^{3} for atoms typical in proteins (0.40 Å^{3} for H atoms, 0.69 – 0.85 Å^{3} for O atoms, 0.90–0.97 Å^{3} for N atoms, 1.03 – 1.32 Å^{3} for C atoms [13]). Thus, the dimension less value γ is about 0.02 for the closest nonbonded contact of atoms (r ≈ 2.2–3.4 Å for atoms H, O, N, C [13]).
The very small value of γ at "nonbonded" distances means that triple, quadruple, etc., nonbonded atomatom contacts are very weak compared to those that are pairwise.
However, the situation changes when the γ factor involves two atoms connected by a covalent bond. The atomatom distance in this case is at least two times smaller than that for the closest nonbonded contact. Thus, the γ factor for covalently bonded atoms is about tenfold (see Eq. [11]) larger than the γ factor for the closest nonbonded contact of atoms. In this case, the energy of highorder interactions can approach that of a pairwise interaction.
Taking an average estimate of γ = 0.15 for bonded atoms (that corresponds to a typical covalent bond length of 1.5 Å between chemically equal atoms with polarizability of 1 Å^{3}), we see (Fig. 2) a significant change in the VdW interaction energy for the cost of triple and quadruple interactions of three atoms (when a pair of these atoms is covalently bonded) and, to a lesser extent, for the cost of fouratom interactions (when two pairs of atoms are covalently bonded). It is useful to mention here that one study cited herein [14] has already discussed the general idea that ''bondbond'' interactions are more appropriate for conformational analysis than ''atomatom'' interactions.
In the case of the collinear arrangement of atoms and bonds the attraction can grow by 70% (compare values in columns "configuration and its energy" and "pairwise" in Fig. 2), while in the case of the orthogonal arrangement of atoms and bonds, the attraction can decrease by 6%. The decrease is less than the increase because, as mentioned above, the quadruple interaction is mainly attractive. The main part of this attraction is due to the threeatom quadruple interaction. This can be divided in two parts: Equation [15] can be presented as Sp[θ_{ ik }θ_{ ki }θ_{ ip }θ_{ pi }] = 12 + (9cos^{2}φ_{ i } 3), where the first (larger) term is an orientationindependent constant (actually, it simply increases the VdW attraction of any atom involved in covalent bonding to all other atoms, see Fig. 1b; in available force fields [1–5] this term is implicitly taken into account by ascribing and fitting different pairwise attraction forces to atoms in different covalent states). The second, the orientationdependent part equals zero if averaged in 3D space over all possible atomtobond orientations (see examples in Fig. 2); this part is rather similar to that for the interaction of a separate atom with a remote covalent bond (cf. Fig.1b to Fig. 1a).
The orientationdependent terms, which mainly arise from triple interactions, can increase or decrease VdW energy by ~±20–40% at extremes. This energy effect is significant, being comparable to that caused by the replacement of an N atom (α_{ N }≈ 0.95 Å^{3}) by a C (α_{ C }≈ 1.2 Å^{3}) or O (α_{ O }≈ 0.75 Å^{3}) atom in a pairwise VdW interaction (see equations [10,11] at ω_{ N }≈ω_{ C }≈ω_{ O }). Moreover, the orientation effect is much stronger than the effect of replacing the pairwise energies of two CN nonbonded contacts with the sum of pairwise energies of CC and NN contacts (α_{ C }α_{ C }+ α_{ N }α_{ N } 2α_{ C }α_{ N }≈ 5% × α_{ C }α_{ N }). Note that the contact replacements are the main VdW effects currently used to distinguish ''correct'' protein folds from those that are ''wrong''.
Thus, we indeed see that any conformational analysis should by no means ignore the cumulative effect of the coupling of multiatom VdW interactions with covalent bonds. Figure 3 shows that the energy difference between two structures of equal compactness may change twice due to this effect.
It is necessary to note that at short distances, which are the most important for VdW interactions, one can expect effects of inharmonicity, higher multipole interactions, etc. [11, 12]. These effects are avoided in the "harmonic oscillator" model used in this work. Nevertheless, they exist in reality, and their existence makes the expressions obtained for manybody interactions approximate to the same extent as the conventional London's expression is for pairwise interactions. In particular, the value of γ for each covalent bond may be treated as a parameter, the value of which should be obtained from a fit of the experimental data in the same way as the London's pairwise interaction energy [11, 13, 14]. The necessity of fitting the experimental data is underlined by a relatively slow convergence of both the orientationdependent and orientationindependent series in Figure 2.
"VdW permittivity"
VdW forces and the electronic part of dielectric permittivity are evidently connected: both originate from dipoledipole interactions. The relationship between VdW forces and the macroscopic dielectric permittivity of the medium is well studied in the continuum approximation [11, 14, 16]. However, this approach is useful and relatively simple when applied to large uniform bodies, like drops or layers. This work concerns interactions of small fragments composed of various atoms, and the frequencydependent dielectric permeability, taken as a macroscopic characteristic, seems not to be an appropriate tool to investigate this case. Here we will consider an electronic part of the microscopic dielectric permittivity created by and acting at interacting harmonic oscillators, with the goal of demonstrating that multiatom interaction creates a kind of "VdW permittivity" for pairwise VdW forces in addition to elucidating a connection between VdW forces and the electronic part of microscopic dielectric permittivity.
The role of dielectric permittivity in VdW forces is ambiguous. On the one hand, the VdW interaction of two atoms is proportional to the square of the electrostatic interaction between their fluctuating electronic polarizations. Thus, one might expect the pairwise VdW interaction to be inversely proportional to the square of the electronic part of the dielectric permittivity. On the other hand, the medium's electrons (which create the electronic component of dielectric permittivity) are involved in VdW interactions of "their own" atoms, and it is not clear if they are "free" enough to influence the VdW interactions of the other atoms in such a strong manner.
Following equations [8] – [10], [12], [13], one can present the total VdW energy ΔW as
and see that {\Phi}_{ik}\approx {\left\{1{\displaystyle \sum _{p\ne i,j}\frac{{({\omega}_{p})}^{2}}{({\omega}_{i}+{\omega}_{p})({\omega}_{p}+{\omega}_{k})}\cdot \frac{2{\alpha}_{p}{\text{r}}_{ik}{\text{}}^{\text{3}}}{{\text{r}}_{ip}{\text{}}^{\text{3}}{\text{r}}_{pk}{\text{}}^{\text{3}}}\cdot \frac{\text{Sp[}{\theta}_{ik}{\theta}_{kp}{\theta}_{pi}\text{]}}{\text{Sp[}{\theta}_{ik}{\theta}_{ki}\text{]}}}+\mathrm{...}\right\}}^{1} plays the role of "microscopic permittivity" for the pairwise VdW interactions of atoms i, k. This "permittivity" depends on the distance between atoms i and k, and the space distribution of the other atoms with oscillating electrons around them. The value Φ_{ ik }looks similar to, but does not coincide with the square of the electronic part of dielectric permittivity {\epsilon}_{ab}^{2} given by equation [21]. Thus the naive idea that VdW interaction may be inversely proportional to the square of the electronic part of the dielectric permittivity turned out to be wrong. However, the values Φ_{ ik }and ε_{ ik }are related if all atoms have equal electron oscillation frequencies ω. Since the value ε_{ ik }of the electronic component of the dielectric permittivity is not far from unity [13], we see in this case that
Thus, on average, MB effects decrease the pairwise VdW energy roughly in proportion to the square root of the electronic part of the microscopic dielectric permittivity for the dipoledipole interaction via a polarizable atomic environment.
The main effect is caused by the electronic permittivity, which is pertinent to small, atomic distances, where the main VdW interaction takes place. One can expect that the electronic component of the microscopic dielectric permittivity for interacting dipoles at these distances is significantly smaller than the electronic dielectric permittivity at macroscopic distances: the decrease in VdW energy caused by threeatom interaction in liquid argon [7] is approximately fivefold less than that expected the from its macroscopic permittivity.
Conclusion
Ligand binding and protein structure prediction require especially accurate force field potentials, because one "correct" structure struggles against billions of "wrong" ones [17]. Despite huge efforts to optimize them, the force fields currently used are still not able, in a vast majority of cases, to bring an approximate, homologybased model of protein structure (whose atoms usually deviate by only 1.5 – 3 Å from their native positions) closer to its native conformation [18–22]. At present, even the most successful methods (one or two of the five dozen methods used) show some improvement of homology models by a force fieldbased refinement in only a half of cases [21–23]. This shows that a "significant difficulty still exists in both sampling and force field accuracy" [23]. One of the force field problems is that which concerns the "not well captured" balance between intramolecular and solvent dispersion (i.e., VdW) interactions [23]. On the other hand, a partial success of modern molecular mechanics methods in the prediction of detailed protein structure shows that (i) modern, improved methods of sampling of protein chain conformations seem to work (possibly, at the cost of averaging that decreases the effect of energy errors [17]) in some, but not all, cases (especially when a nearnative conformation basin is reached from homology modeling), and (ii) current force field quality is sufficient in some, but not all, cases, so that an increase in the accuracy of the force field seems to be crucial for the final success of protein structure prediction methods.
This study shows that currentlyignored multiatom VdW interactions can be important for the further development of force fields. The coupling of covalent bonding with multiatom VdW interactions is not the only important MB effect. Some of those, like MB electrostatic interactions, are taken into account by the existing force fields (see [24, 25]). Here the effect is caused by the interaction of the permanent charges or permanent molecular multipoles with particles of polarizable media. The other interactions, which include interaction of permanent multipoles with induced ones [26], are not yet taken into account by existing force fields.
The discovered specific coupling of covalent bonding with multiatom VdW interactions does not need permanent charges or multipoles, and therefore involves the multitude of covalent bonds in molecules. Multiatom interaction with any of the bonds can lead to a significant energy effect, which is comparable to that caused by the replacement of atoms in conventional pairwise VdW interactions. As a result, the effect described can be rather significant in choosing the molecular shape.
Abbreviations
 3D:

threedimensional
 VdW:

Van der Waals
 MB:

multibody
 CASP:

Critical Assessment of Techniques for Protein Structure Prediction meeting
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Acknowledgements
I am grateful to D. Reifsnyder for assistance in the preparation of this paper, to A.G. Donchev for assistance in computations and to A.M. Dykhne, A.A. Vedenov, R.V. Polozov, M. Levitt and G. Vriend for seminal discussions. This work was supported in part by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research and Russian programs "Molecular and Chemical Biology" and "Leading Scientific Schools", INTAS, IHES and an International Research Scholar's Award from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
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Finkelstein, A.V. Average and extreme multiatom Van der Waals interactions: Strong coupling of multiatom Van der Waals interactions with covalent bonding. Chemistry Central Journal 1, 21 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1186/1752153X121
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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/1752153X121